SiriusXM NFL Radio made the rounds this summer for their annual NFL Training Camp Tour. Of course, it was conducted virtually this season, but nevertheless, Pittsburgh was a recent tour “stop.”
Former general manager and scout Pat Kirwan, along with his co-host and former Steelers quarterback Jim Miller, had Ben Roethlisberger on as a guest during Movin’ the Chains Steelers stop.
Roethlisberger’s newest weapon may just wind up being his surgically repaired elbow. But he also has new weapons in wide receivers Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and tight end Eric Ebron.
Though Johnson is in his second year, he was only on the receiving end of three passes from Big Ben before his season ended.
“With the offseason we’ve had, it’s been unique,” said Roethlisberger on Movin’ the Chains. “Typically, you get minicamps, OTAs. Not having those was difficult, too, which is why we organized some [practices] on the side to get together as much as we could to get to know each other.”
Roethlisberger said that building chemistry with Johnson is a process that can only be helped by playing games.
“[Diontae] and I don’t really have any chemistry,” Roethlisberger said. “We never really played together. So, there’s still a lot of learning and trust that has to come from both sides when it comes to his play on the field. He’s extremely talented, and I’m excited to get out there with him. We just don’t know each other well enough yet… Obviously, JuJu [Smith-Schuster] and I know each other and James Washington and Vance [McDonald], but there are still a lot of question marks out there.”
In the evenings after work, Ben watches practice footage, sends clips to his receivers, and talks with them about specific plays and what everyone can do to get better.
“We just try to get in as much work as we can knowing that this is going to be a work in progress as the season unfolds,” he said.
Kirwan noted that Roethlisberger took 76 deep shots in 2018 for an average of five per game, and asked the quarterback to assess where he is with that part of his game.
“Let’s go for seven a game then,” Roethlisberger joked. “The arm feels good. I guess we’ll really test it… That’s going to be key for us. We have guys that can stretch the field. I need to do my best not to force anything to certain guys or certain coverages. But when we have the deep shots, we have to take it, and same thing when we get underneath.”
Roethlisberger said that Smith-Schuster is one who can stretch the field and get underneath and create matchup. He pointed to the two 97-yard touchdowns JuJu scored — the first versus the Lions in 2017 and the second versus the Broncos in 2018.
“People talk about him not being a ‘speedster,’ but he has two touchdowns over at least 97 yards or something like that. That doesn’t happen too often unless you’ve got enough speed.”
Big Ben shares that the game plan is to move the receivers around, but only to a certain extent.
“Obviously, we don’t want guys to play slower because they’re thinking too much. You want guys to just play fast and be natural,” he said. “We’ll do our best to get guys into the positions to make plays for us.”
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) September 3, 2020